A buzzing sound emanated from somewhere. Consistent and continuous, it sometimes grew louder, sometimes faded away. Just like Rimi, who drifted in and out of consciousness. Even in those few moments when she came to, she could feel or see nothing. All that was visible was blackness. It was all around her – complete, all-encompassing blackness. Her throat felt parched. She wet her lips. The buzzing noise was making her head hurt. In fact, come to think of it, her whole body hurt. She tried lifting her arms but they felt like lead. She tried moving her legs but she couldn’t even feel them. She tried turning to her side but she had no strength. She felt pinned as if a huge crushing weight was pressing down on her.
Rimi felt a dull ache in the core of her body. As she became more aware, the buzzing decreased and the pain increased. She opened her eyes slowly. She saw whiteness – from utter blackness to blinding whiteness. It hurt her eyes. She blinked repeatedly until her eyes got used to the light. Slowly, the fuzzy room floated into focus. It had started again, the buzzing noise. Her gaze darted around the room and settled on the source. A big, black dot flew close and away again. It went all around the room as if teasing her, taunting her. Or was it desperately looking for an escape? An escape from what? Where was she, Rimi wondered. Was she even alive?
She turned her head to the other side. It took all of her strength to do that. The room was stark white, save the light blue blinds at the window. A steady beeping sound became evident now that the buzzing sound had receded. Hospital? Was she in a hospital?
Rimi tried getting up and lifted her hand to prop herself up. A sharp pain shot through her right hand and all the way up to her shoulder. She glanced at her hand and saw a tube coming out the back of her hand. She gasped in pain and half-fell back on the bed.
“Hey! You need to lie back.” A pretty lady in a light blue V-neck top appeared.
“Wa…ter.” She whispered hoarsely.
The nurse poured out a glass of water and helped her sip it slowly. She put the glass back on the counter-top and said, “You know they are calling you Dilaeri.”
Rimi ignored this seemingly irrelevant nugget of information. She closed her eyes again.
“I’ll call for the doctor,” she said.
Rimi heard the door open and close, as the nurse exited. A few minutes later the door creaked again. She opened her eyes and saw a young man dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope round his neck walk into the room.
“Someone’s awake, I see. How are you feeling now?” He said cheerfully. She croaked a weak, half-hearted okay. He walked up to her side and held her wrist between his fingers. “You gave us quite a scare, didn’t you?” He smiled benevolently. “Dilaeri, in very sense, huh!” He ran a battery of tests, which exhausted and drained Rimi even more.
“Does it hurt anywhere?” He looked at her.
Rimi wet her lips again. “All over,” she said, with great effort.
He nodded, “That’s understandable.”
A man burst through the door and rushed to her side.
“How are you now?” He held her good hand tenderly.
Rimi nodded and smiled weakly.
“She’ll be fine, Mr. Sharma. A real fighter, your wife is.” The doctor finished writing something on the board and stacked it at the end of her bed. He came back to stand on her right.
Rimi used every ounce of strength in her and found her voice. “What happened? Why am I here?”
“You don’t remember anything?” The doctor asked her, with raised brows.
She shook her head in confusion.
“Rimi, you remember me?” Her husband asked worriedly.
“Of course, Amit!” She rasped and put her head back on the pillow. “Why am I here?”
“Doctor?” Amit looked at the doctor with a horrified expression.
“It’s okay. The shock of the incident was tremendous. The brain is known to work in mysterious ways. It is possible it blocked out the memory to help cope with the trauma. This is normal. As long as the rest of her memory is intact, there is nothing to worry about.”
Rimi was confused. Incident? Trauma? Loss of Memory!
“You were in an accident,” the doctor said gently. “Your body had shut down to recover. You were asleep for 32 hours.”
Even in her state of confusion, Rimi marveled at his choice of words. Asleep for 32 hours wasn’t really sleep, she knew.
“What kind of accident? How did it happen? Was there anyone else involved? Are they okay?”
The men exchanged a look, one which didn’t escape Rimi. She looked at her husband questioningly but he averted his gaze.
“What is it? Why won’t you tell me?”
Her doctor cleared his throat noisily. “Please don’t worry about all that. No one was hurt. And within no time, you’ll be fighting fit too.”
She breathed deep, still reeling from the shock of what she was hearing. “Water.” She looked at her husband.
Her husband poured water in a glass and helped her drink it. An image flashed through Rimi’s mind as she handed the glass back. A flicker of recognition crept in her eyes. The memory of the previous day came back to her in bits and pieces. Rimi lay back on the bed and closed her eyes. Auto. Dark road. Too many honking cars. Dark road again. Shouting. Someone pinching her hard. Screaming again. A dark shadow looming over her. Pain. Intense, excruciating pain. In a flash, she remembered everything.
Rimi shrieked, her eyes darting wildly. She tried clutching at her husband for support. But he was moving back and forth too fast. Everything was moving too fast. She felt a sharp pain in the back of her hand. And then there was blackness again.
When Rimi awoke again, it was the next morning. She heard whispers. She caught snippets of their conversation. One of the voices was her husband’s, she realized. Someone was hovering near her. It was the nice nurse who had called her husband. The memory of the previous night flashed through her mind. Rimi tried calling to her husband. Instead, she whimpered in pain. The two men stopped talking and rushed to her side. She held out her hand for her husband.
“Sssshh… Mrs. Sharma, you need to calm down. Please. Your body needs to heal.” The doctor spoke in a gentle but firm tone.
Rimi breathed deep and closed her eyes again. “Was he caught?” She said, in a flat tone, half expecting a response in the negative.
Her eyes flew open in shock and surprise. “How? How did the police know?”
“You don’t remember?” Her husband said.
Rimi shook her head, trying to fill in the blanks in her memory. She looked at the doctor and back at her husband.
“It’s okay,” the doctor said. “You told the person who brought you to the hospital. You were conscious then,” he explained, “You told them to record your statement using a mobile phone. We have you on video, Mrs. Sharma.” His tone held a note of pride and admiration. “You told them you bit that man, on the shoulder. That wound was a dead giveaway. The police found him easily, thanks to your detailed description.”
“It doesn’t matter, he’d never get punished.” She remembered his face clearly now. He’d get away with it, she knew.
“Yes, it does matter,” said her husband.
Rimi’s gaze switched from husband to the doctor. Both were smiling broadly. The doctor with obvious admiration in his eyes, her husband despite the tears in his.
“Yes, it does,” the doctor agreed. “He’s already been charged and arrested.”
“Doesn’t matter,” she said. A tinge of disgust and disappointment crept in her voice. “He looked like a kid. He’s going to walk away free and do it again the very next day.” She looked away, a vacant expression in her eyes.
“No, he won’t,” the men spoke in unison.
The doctor held up a newspaper.
“India’s prayers answered; Dilaeri lives. Juvenile Act amended overnight. Accused to get life,” the headlines screamed.